by Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Heading into one of the best fiscal years that Seattle has had since before the recession, transit by rail continues full steam (or in this case, electricity) ahead. Construction continues on-schedule for the new University Link light rail and the First Hill Streetcar, while local legislators have been pushing for additions that would increase access and ridership of lines stretching to Seattle’s northern extremities. In our own neighborhood, plans and guidelines for the future of the light rail’s Broadway Station area recently became official.
This evening, at the 6:30 p.m. Capitol Hill Community Council meeting at the Cal Anderson Shelterhouse, Capitol Hill Champion will celebrate the approval of Broadway Station’s development agreement. The agreement, which came to the Seattle City Council in August, outlines the details of construction requirements at various sites around the light rail station currently under construction on Broadway.
Between now and December, 2013, Sound Transit and the City of Seattle will create a system by which potential developers can bid for the use of several parcels of land around the station. These parcels have been purchased by Sound Transit to create what is known as “transit-oriented developments.” Specifically, the buildings that ultimately take those lots will have to promote density, support foot traffic, meet environmental impact standards and generally fit the design requirements set out by the development agreement as guided by the City and input from the community.
Among the City’s many regulations of these development sites, each new building will have to achieve at least Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver status for sustainable construction, and many of the sites require residential units to be a significant part of the plan. The City is not mandating any specific number of apartments in any of the buildings, though estimates and recommendations present in Sound Transit’s Coordinated Development Plan (CDP) provide for units that range from approximately 400 square feet to over 700 square feet. This means that, providing developers have proper incentive to follow these guidelines, none of the residential units at Broadway Station will be micro-apartments.
The plaza space that will make up a portion of Site A has been a point of contention throughout the design agreement process, and will likely continue to be an issue as developers begin submitting their proposals. The plaza, which will be privately-owned, will be legally required to serve as a publicly-accessible space for a minimum of 16 hours per day, and be accessible to cyclists and pedestrians as a through-way at all times when the light rail is in service. There is no language in the design agreement to guarantee space to the Broadway Farmers’ Market, despite vocal support within the CHCC and in the community at-large for a permanent market space.
The University Link light rail line will eventually connect to the Northgate Link line eight years from now. The Northgate Link will run from the University District, through Ravenna and into Northgate, terminating at North 103rd Street. Two years later, the Lynnwood Extension is set to open, establishing light rail service all the way to Snohomish County. The northernmost station will be at the Lynnwood Transit Center at 200th Street Southwest, with stops between there and Northgate. Recently, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution that supports the creation of an additional station at North 130th Street. Under the original plan, there were no stops between Northeast 145th Street and Northgate Station, making accessing the light rail difficult for the relatively dense population in that 15-block area.
“Our Capital Committee last week did recommend that staff continue looking at 130th as a potential station location on the Lynnwood Link alignment as we move into a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project. But the final station and alignment locations are still at least a year from being identified,” said Sound Transit representative Bruce Gray.
The City’s continued investment in light rail for the decade to come stands on a recent history of strong ridership of the existing light rail line between downtown Seattle and SeaTac Airport. In 2013 alone, Sound Transit estimates a total of 9.2 million boardings of that line. Ridership of the light rail has risen consistently since it opened in 2009. Even in the typically low-ridership averages of the winter months, 2013’s first-quarter boardings were 12 percent higher than 2012’s.
The City has also seen widespread support for shorter-distance rail in the Seattle Streetcar project. The First Hill Streetcar and its extensions down Broadway are on schedule to open next year, while legislators and people in the community are on-board for the Center City Connector that would link the First Hill line with the long-in-use South Lake Union Streetcar.
For more news about Sound Transit’s plans for the North Side, there are open houses scheduled for October 23 at Roosevelt High School and at Olympic View Elementary School.